Nintendo have stated they have “taken action” over Activision Blizzard; including working with the ESA for a stronger stance against harassment.
A petition calling for Kotick’s “removal” reached 1,800 signatures from staff across Activision Blizzard studios as of this time of writing. Both Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO Jim Ryan and Head of Xbox Phil Spencer expressed their disgust at the alleged situation at Activision Blizzard, with Spencer stating they were “evaluating all aspects” of their relationship with them.
Kotick has reportedly stated he will consider leaving the company if he cannot solve their issues “with speed.” The board of director were reportedly considering making a “workplace excellence committee” to oversee the proposed steps to improve the company’s culture. These insider claims were given more credence, as Activision Blizzard officially announced just that 24 hours after the initial reports.
Along with PlayStation and Xbox, Nintendo have now made their comments on Activision Blizzard. Once again, these are comments were made in internal emails to staff, this time obtained by Fanbyte. A Nintendo PR representative later told Fanbyte “We can confirm the content of Doug Bowser’s internal email to Nintendo of America staff is accurate. We have nothing further to share on this topic.”
Those comments by Nintendo of America President Bowser came on November 19th, sent in an email to all levels of the company. He opened with how he was distressed and disturbed by the reports, as they ran counter to his and Nintendo’s beliefs, values, and policies.
Bowser continued, explaining that the company was committed to an open and inclusive workplace where all are welcome; and also how Nintendo held itself, their partners, and the industry to that standard. This may be why Bowser revealed that representatives at Nintendo had been “in contact with Activision, have taken action and are assessing others.”
While what that involves is unclear, Bowser does make explicit mention of The Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Nintendo and Activision Blizzard are both members of this trade association and lobbying organization.
Bowser revealed to staff that Nintendo had been working with the ESA for at least the last week to (in Fanbyte’s words) “strengthen stances on harassment and abuse in the workplace, and that the ESA must hold its members to the highest standard.”
“Every company in the industry must create an environment where everyone is respected and treated as equals,” Bowser concluded, “and where all understand the consequences of not doing so.”
As previously reported, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) concluded a two year investigation. Their findings lead to a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for “frat boy” style sexual harassment; possibly leading to one woman committing suicide on a company trip. Other claims include discrimination by women being paid less, promoted less frequently, and after longer periods of time.
While initially dismissed by Activision Blizzard as including “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” and “factually incorrect, old and out of context,” almost 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed an open letter condemning the response as “abhorrent and insulting.” Staff led the first walkout soon after.
Kotick stated that the company’s initial response was “tone deaf,” and announced they were bringing in a law firm to conduct an immediate review of their policies and procedures. He also announced, diverse hiring, and removing references to accused developers from their games [1, 2]. Employees were dissatisfied with the response for not addressing their demands and rejected the proposed law firm.
Added claims from temporary workers included allegations of Activation Blizzard destroying documents relating to employees and pay. After Activision Blizzard made an $18 million USD settlement deal with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the DFEH objected for it being too lenient and hindering their own case, as relevant documents were proposed to be destroyed thereafter.
However, the EEOC claimed there was a conflict of interest; thanks to two DFEH attorneys having worked for the EEOC. This has putt both cases in jeopardy.
Most recently Kotick announced a zero-tolerance harassment policy and diverse hiring goals for the company; while also reducing his own compensation to its legal minimum. This was prior to the new allegations, including those made against him.
Activision Blizzard staff staged another walkout this month, calling for Kotick to be replaced amid fresh allegations. These include Kotick knowing about many incidents of abuse and failing to notify the board of directors or investors, and vouched to keep accused staff on board.
While leaving Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack was replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra; it was also recently claimed Oneal was paid less than Ybarra, and had been sexually harassed while at Activision. There were also allegations of Kotick’s own harassment.
In 2006 Kotick allegedly left a threatening voice mail to an assistant, saying he would have her killed. The matter was allegedly settled out of court, and a spokesperson stated he deeply regretted the “obviously hyperbolic and inappropriate” message.
Despite all this the board of directors issued a statement, confident that Kotick “appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention,” along with his “leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.” Shareholders, with a total of 4.8 million shares between them, called for Kotick to resign however, along with two directors of the board.
Led by the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) Investment Group, Executive Director Dieter Waizenegger stated they would likely be replaced by diverse directors, with at least one seat to go to an Activision Blizzard employee who is not an executive.